Shedd Aquarium’s otter Pup 681 is quickly becoming more than just a number
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The hard life will likely begin a few months from now — the public life and the constant pressure to maintain an aura of extreme otter cuteness.
For now, life proceeds at a gentler pace for “Pup 681,” as the orphaned California sea otter is known.
“She has a life that could be envied by many,” explained Tim Binder, Shedd Aquarium’s vice president of animal collections.
Five weeks after a jogger heard the lonely pup’s cries coming from a California beach, the chocolate-brown otter is thriving on a diet of formula, shrimp and clams, Binder said.
“Her day is swimming, playing, eating, being groomed,” Binder explained.
On Wednesday — media day — the pup generally refused to perform for the cameras, preferring instead to recline on a bed of white towels, as a Shedd staffer rubbed every inch of her dense fur.
“They have to groom to keep that fur from matting, keep air in the hair, and that’s what insulates them, that’s what keeps them warm,” Binder said. “Grooming is something they’re taught by their mother. So we have to teach her how to groom.”
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To survive, the pup must also learn how to swim, dive and climb out of her pool in the “pup nursery.”
“She is trying to dive right now, but her pup fur is so buoyant that it doesn’t allow them to dive,” Binder said.
Perhaps it’s hard to understand how a mother could turn her back on one of the planet’s most adorable creatures.
Binder said it’s possible the mother died during birth — or perhaps was young and lacking in maternal experience.
“This time of year is heavy pup season,” Binder said. “So it’s not uncommon to have these pups found on the beach abandoned or otherwise orphaned.”
In the coming months, Pup 681 is expected to join Shedd’s other four California otters.